3 Oct 2013

Mail group own goal as Miliband row continues

It seems beyond incredible that the seemingly sure-footed House of Northcliffe could walk straight back into the mire, just as Dacre-gate seems to be ebbing away.

But that is exactly what has happened.

We can now reveal that the Mail on Sunday Assistant Editor (Features) Amy Iggulden (as of April this year) has been suspended by editor Geordie Greig.

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Also suspended, the freelance reporter who was present at the Miliband family gathering in memory of Ed Miliband’s Uncle at Guy’s Hospital – Joanne Knowsley.

Apparently Geordie Greig has admitted full responsibility and apologised “unreservedly” and says that Lord Rothermere will reply to Ed Miliband about the presence of a Mail on Sunday reporter at a private family gathering, hot on the heels of the Daily Mail denigration of Miliband Senior.

Mr Greig says he had no idea. It seems nobody thought to tell him this was being planned.

But the back story is whether or not Mr Greig was under pressure not to apologise by Paul Dacre – the Mail group editorial supremo and man currently on the run from journalists wanting answers.

Media sources and others say categorically that, after initially apologising, Mr Greig told the Labour party he would not apologise after all and said it was justified to send a reporter.

This is being seen – if it is the case – as the result of direct pressure from Paul Dacre. So another question looms for one or both of these suddenly shy editors to try and clarify – or even just answer.

Has he really apologised at all?

When I called the papers this morning I spent a bizarre 10 minutes or so being passed around the organisation.

No press officer was available. All calls were being directed to the chairman’s office “on the direct order of Lord Rothermere”.

When I eventually got to the right place, a woman who declined to give her name also declined to answer whether the editor of the Mail on Sunday has actually in fact apologised at all.

“Can you just answer that, yes or no?”

“You need to put it in an email.”

“But why don’t you just help yourselves by just answering it? It’s a yes or no, and you’ve put a statement out on PA.”

“You’ll have to write an email.”

I wrote an email. It remains unacknowledged.  And of course it contained a request for an interview.

Over at the Daily Mail, Mr Dacre remains more or less on the run from his mews home in west London where the cars turn up in the evening gloom, travel down the cobblestones, and duly deliver the first and second editions of the paper through the pale green front door.

Nobody is at home. The porch light periodically come on automatically as, curiously, does a computer screen on the first floor, before going off again and surrendering to the night.

Bemused diplomats come and go from the embassy next door – they look just as bemused when I finish explaining why I am here as they did when I started. It is a peculiarly British affair, this one.

Yesterday Paul Dacre did emerge from his London home with a paper over his head, apparently wishing to disguise who he is. Regrettably it was not the Daily Mail. It was the Financial Times.

There’s a feeling of near-chaos about the organisation in all of this.

Associated Newspapers is currently delivering huge amounts of support to the very same “Red Ed” they profess to dislike so very much.

There is a growing sense that the outfit’s supposedly sure-footed understanding of middle England has been lost in recent days. They don’t get it.

One editor not apologising, not explaining, and on the run. Another apparently apologising profusely and suspending staff who were doing things he knew nothing of. Strange times indeed for Lord Rothermere.

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